First published in The Emporia Gazette December 6, 2005


Louis' paint palette




by Cheryl Unruh

“The day-in, day-out life of an artist is not that exciting,” Louis Copt said.

Louis Copt

“As you already know, it’s pretty much a solitary existence.”

As a writer, I too, work alone, and was curious to learn how this successful artist spends his days.

I quibble over words. I add and delete sentences, rearrange paragraphs. Painting, it seems, is similar.

“Painting is a back and forth process,” Louis said. “You paint stuff in, then you paint it out. Then you paint it in and you paint it out. And you just kind of go back and forth till you get it right.”

The Copts, both native Emporians, live near Lawrence. Louis paints and Phyllis teaches high school English.

Louis Copt is nationally recognized for his Kansas landscapes and his paintings sell well in galleries. Despite his fame, Louis is just an incredibly nice guy.

On the November day that I visited in his studio, Louis shaped clouds on a summer landscape.

“Is that lavender?” I asked, as he mixed oils on a glass palette.

“Yeah, it’s ultramarine blue, burnt umber, a touch of cadmium red,” he said.

“I’ve just done this for so long that if I see a color I can mix it. That just comes from years of doing it.”

“The hard thing I think, for beginning painters, is color and mixing it,” Louis said.

“That’s one of the things I enjoy about teaching. When you teach, that means you talk about what you do and when you articulate what you do, that helps you more.”

“It’s easy to stand here and do it,” he said, “but if I have to explain it then it then it causes me to think about what I’m doing.”

“I use burnt umber, but why do I use burnt umber rather than raw umber? Because raw umber turns things green. You just know those things.”

Well, Louis knows those things.

“I guess a typical day would be to get my wife off to school,” he said. “Then about nine o’clock or so, I start to paint.”

“And I usually paint till noon and then see what’s on CNN--see what’s blown up in the world.”

After lunch, he paints and also deals with administrative aspects of his business.

Two afternoons a week, Louis teaches at the Lawrence Arts Center, something he’s done for years.


Teaching provides the opportunity to give back to the community and to connect with other artists. He’s happy to share his knowledge and skills.

“There aren’t enough artists in the world as far as I’m concerned,” Louis said.

At the arts center that afternoon he taught an “open studio” class. Students paint in whatever medium they choose.

Hans worked on a watercolor seascape.

“There’s some purple in there,” Louis told Hans, pointing at the photograph.

“I don’t see any purple,” Hans said. “Oh yes, there it is. You see colors more quickly than I do.”

Jim, another student, painted a French landscape, a lavender field.

“The colors worry me,” Jim said.

“It’s pink. It’s blue. It’s all the colors,” Louis said. “It’s hard. I’ve painted many lavender fields myself and it is hard.”

Marilyn worked on an oil painting of a Lawrence bar scene.

“Put something back there and the mind will finish it,” Louis offered, pointing to one side of her painting. “Instinct tells you there’s something back there. All you need is color and shape.”

His students eagerly accepted Louis’ suggestions.

“Whatever advice he gives,” Marilyn told me, “it’s always right.”

paint tubes



Louis Copt's work can be viewed at

Want to read another column about Louis? "Louis Paints Kansas."

e-mail Louis Copt

Copyright 2005 by Cheryl Unruh


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All Content Copyright 2004-2005 by Cheryl Unruh
Text by Cheryl Unruh | Web Design: Dave Leiker
Photography by Cheryl Unruh & Dave Leiker